Air Conditioning and blackouts

The Joongnang Ilbo reports that blackouts are possible this summer due to air conditioner use or overuse.

If reserves fall below the 4 million kilowatt level, the government has the right to demand power cuts and control electricity usage.

Of course, the threat of power cuts has been raised in previous summers, and in some winters, but they’ve always been avoided.

One method was through conservation measures, and the ministry is planning to restrict the use of air-conditioning starting next month during the peak hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. for buildings that consume more than 2,000 ton-oil-equivalents (or TOEs) of energy.

The government will advise buildings to turn off the air-conditioners for 10 minutes every hour.

Regular readers (well, of Gangwon Notes, I guess I haven’t discussed it on this blog, yet.  Okay, look here, if you are interested) will know my solution:  close the freaking door to the rooms and buildings you are heating or cooling!  I admit this is only a partial solution, but it is an easy first step and one so unfathomably overlooked.  Do Korean moms not tell their kids they don’t want to heat (or cool) all of Muskoka (or, you know, wherever)?

Other solutions, also from the Jungang, include cooling to only 25 or 26 degrees, rather than the so-very-wonderful 20 degrees.

I do love cool air in the summer and recently started introducing the idea of air conditioning to the wife, hoping she would subliminally absorb it and even suggest it to me.  Then, I would be able to appear surprised and reluctantly agree.  I am getting by without AC but I shudder at what our water and water heating bill will look like.  Let’s see, a shower before bed, one in the morning, and one after some exercise.  Indeed, sometimes I exercise on my bike, finish at the pool -and have a shower- then ride home and feel sweaty enough to have another shower!

Anyway, let’s see what other problems AC is connected to.

From the American Lion:

Having spent the last few years in Central Maryland, the heat there is stifling and the air conditioning pervasive. The humidity was always a nightmare for me because I tend to sweat profusely whenever the temperature hits 80 degrees or more. We spent thousands of dollars each year keeping the house cool.

Compare that with Germany. The home where we live now has no air conditioning. No one has it. No one needs it. And we regularly hit 80 degrees in the summer. The weather and climate here are much cooler, granted, but even when there is warm weather, one opens up the house and uses a few fans to cool the house. We have skylights and large windows that can be tilted open or left open to let cool air in and hot air out through the roof.

This may not be scientific, but when we last lived in Maryland, our sinus issues, family-wide, were legendary. We were accused of being manufacturers of methamphetamine–that’s how much Sudafed we were using.

After a few months abroad, all of our issues are cleared up. Everyone feels better. Everyone sleeps better and there are no issues. We are inundated with fresh air and cool breezes and we spend a great deal more time outdoors. And don’t forget the walking. The walking keeps us fit and trim.

I don’t get the connection between AC and walking.  I think that is a Moving-to-Germany thing and not directly connected to the main point.  On the other hand, the connection to breathing problems also appears in this Salon article reviewing “Losing our Cool”, a book by Stan Cox:

In the last half century, air conditioning has joined fireworks, swimming pools and charred hamburgers as a ubiquitous ingredient of an American summer. It’s no exaggeration to say it has changed the way this country functions, shaping everything from where we’re willing to live (Las Vegas, anyone?) to the amount of sex we have (more: It’s never too hot to get it on when the A.C. is blasting). Nine out of 10 new homes in this country are built with central air conditioning, and Americans now use as much electricity to power our A.C. as the entire continent of Africa uses for, well, everything. It has so thoroughly scrambled our way of life that when the National Academy of Engineering chose its 20 greatest engineering accomplishments of the last century, A.C. not only made the list, it clocked in ahead of spacecraft, highways and even the Internet.

Yes, AC did make the list, but only as part of refrigeration technology.  Cooling ourselves is merely a luxury, cooling and freezing food is a little more then that.

…Air conditioning is one of those technologies that are very good at generating more demand for themselves. The most obvious way that it’s doing that now is in adding to greenhouse emissions, which will mean even hotter summers in the future and even greater demand for air conditioning….

…Plus, one thing that all commuters are familiar with is that it’s necessary now on city streets and freeways to run the air conditioning in even slightly warm weather to be able to keep the windows rolled up against the exhaust from other cars….

I think that would be true, with or without air conditioning.  Twenty years ago, many friends set their fans to re-circulate to avoid the products of incomplete combustion from still-cold engines.  I have to admit, I love the air conditioning in my car and that is at least partially because I can more easily hear the podcasts and music I listen to while driving.  Also, Busan can be a smelly place.

…If you look at how we use our air conditioning, it’s shocking. Take a 3,000-square-foot house on a summer day — only about 3 percent of the cooling power from the central air conditioning is going for people cooling. That is to say, 3 percent is being used to help remove heat from people’s bodies. The other 97 percent is going to cool the structure of the house, all the tens of thousands of cubic feet of air that aren’t even coming in contact with these people. …

On how to keep cool without air conditioning: …But they told me it’s actually pretty much just the old-fashioned advice that people used to follow. They will close windows to keep the cool air in and only open them when they need to. In the evening they have a house fan to draw the cooler air back in, but a lot of the time they don’t even use that. The day I visited them it was the second-hottest day of 2009. They go through a lot of ice water….

(Question from Salon) There have been some positive health consequences from air conditioning — making it safer for people during heat waves, for instance. How do you reconcile this with wanting to ratchet down our A.C. use?

Yeah, it does have a Jekyll-and-Hyde character in that respect. But I think we need to look at it is as a fail-safe mechanism and recognize that a lot of the health problems that we need A.C. to solve, it may have contributed to in the first place. We need to look at the conditions under which people die in heat waves, the harsh life conditions that they’re enduring more generally. That’s the real root of the problem.

Also, a lot of people run air conditioning because they’re concerned about their allergies or asthma, but we need to consider the hypotheses that say that the current epidemic of those conditions is partly caused by lack of outdoor exposure to soil and friendly organisms. Maybe if children were out in the yard making mud pies instead of in a cool, sterile environment all day long, they might have a lot more defense against those problems.

My mother felt the same way and she was also concerned that, in cooling the air, AC also dried it, irritating nose and throat linings and such.  I had always assumed she simply wanted to save money and was telling us stories.  Sorry, mom.

There is a lot more to the Salon article.  Oh, What the Book can order Losing Our Cool ( And is moving.  The new store looks to be on the main street in Itaewon; I guess they are doing well.  Congratulations to them).

Back to AC and Electricity consumption.  This is a big problem, especially since “[e]lectricity is a mystery…We cannot even say where electricity comes from.  Some scientists think that the sun may be the source of most electricity…”

comic from cartoonstock.

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